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The state of Florida can set its own nitrogen and phosphorus water pollution limits, a federal judge ruled last week, backing the decision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to change the terms of a consent decree signed in 2009 that forced the agency to adopt limits with a specific numeric value.
The ruling was attacked by campaigners and environmental organizations which claimed that the stringent federal limits should be kept in place, but the federal judge stated that Florida could determine its own limits as the proposed criteria were in compliance with the federal standards. Opponents to the changes claimed that the criteria, suggested by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), were "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion" but U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle found that they were in accordance with the law.
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The FDEP commented in a statement that it was "thrilled" by the judge's decision. The department was happy to be able to implement "the most comprehensive numeric nutrient criteria in the nation," the statement said. It added that Florida was now closer to adopting additional nutrient standards regarding the level of pollution for rivers, lakes, streams, springs and coastal waters, which is an important step toward the main goal of the department: protection and restoration of water quality across the state.